House Dems call for government reform, budget transparency
Today, the House Democratic Caucus’ newly installed Minority Leader David J. Toscano (D-Charlottesville), Caucus Chair Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax), and House Democratic leaders from across the Commonwealth released the House Democratic Caucus’ agenda on Government Reform and Budget Transparency for the 2012 Session.
Constituents in Virginia have called for a state government that works more efficiently while reducing costs.
Today, the House Democrats propose initiatives in two areas:
- – Improving the way the General Assembly and state government works
- – Improving the way we budget
House Democrats propose the following changes in how the General Assembly and the Commonwealth conduct business:
- – Ensure that all votes taken in subcommittees are recorded.
- – Provide that no bill shall be permitted to reach the House floor without a hearing and a favorable vote in a committee.
- – Require that all governors’ commissions meetings be open to the public.
- – Enact constitutional reform that permits a governor to serve two consecutive terms and balances legislative authority.
“Transparency is important,” said Democratic Leader David Toscano. “We are disturbed at the reports that the Governor’s Government Reform Commission held a number of meetings out of the public view excluding citizens from the policy making process.”
“We think the governor’s reform commission could have developed better ideas if all meetings were open,” said Democratic Caucus Chair Mark Sickles. “While Dels. Brink and Keam argued successfully for some of the positive Commission recommendations, we want to hear from the public to ensure that other recommendations do not reduce government effectiveness in order to save relatively little money.”
In this time of fiscal challenge, budget transparency and reform is more important than ever before. To that end, House Democrats propose:
- – Creation of a budget that is easily searchable by the public, by topic. The Governor’s Commission on Government Reform suggested this change; the Governor, however, did not support it.
- – Transparent Appropriations subcommittee deliberations.
- – Requiring that the budget conference committee report identify specifically all non-state agency appropriations, any item included in the conference committee report that was not included in an appropriation bill passed by either body, and any item that represents legislation that failed in either chamber during the regular session but was included in the conference report.
- – Providing that the budget conference report be released at least twenty-four hours before it is voted upon.
- – Re-examination of all tax preferences in light of the recent JLARC report which concluded that some of these preferences do not meet their intended purpose, and that few receive periodic legislative review to ensure that tax dollars are wisely spent. An example of this is the coal tax credit, which costs the Commonwealth over $30 million annually, but, according to the JLARC report, is not meeting its intended purpose.
- – Ensuring proper oversight of tax credits. House Democrats propose placing reasonable sunset provisions on all tax credits and eliminating those which no longer serve their intended purpose.
“We call our sunset proposal the ‘Transparency and Accountability Amendment’,” said David Englin (D-Alexandria). “We hope it will be embraced by a majority of delegates and senators.”
Empowering localities to keep a share of monies that they identify that would otherwise go to individuals not eligible for state services. For example, a recent JLARC study of Medicaid suggested that local social services departments be able to keep a portion of Medicaid funds that are saved by identifying errors and fraud. This would create an incentive to ensure that Medicaid dollars go to the truly needy and not to citizens who may be ineligible for benefits. This has already been implemented in the SNAP program.
Revising the deadline for reporting of gifts so the public can know about them in advance of elections.
“Virginians want sound proposals for government reform,” said Rosalyn Dance (D-Petersburg). “House Democrats are prepared to lead the way on transparent common sense solutions.”